Understanding Asbestos

The mere mention of the word asbestos can provoke a range of emotions from people ranging from concern to anger to confusion. And rightly so. However, if pressed for further details, much of the general public know little about asbestos beyond a vague notion of it being “dangerous”. Thus, this post seeks to provide some basic information regarding asbestos.

History

While asbestos has been in use for over 2,000 years, its use rose in popularity during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s when it began to be employed in a variety of building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. In Australia, the use of asbestos peaked between 1945 and 1980 when it was commonly used in construction and other industries. However, from the 1970s, apprehension mounted as the dangers of asbestos were slowly realised. Consequently, use of asbestos was gradually phased out from 1980’s and banned entirely in 2003. Thus, asbestos is still present in many older structures today such as in walls, ceilings, pipes, furnaces, millboard, textured paints, coating materials and floor tiles.

Asbestos Properties

Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring silica compounds (similar to, but not the same as, the silica of window glass and computer chips). There are three commonly available types of asbestos:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos),
  • Amosite (brown asbestos), and
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Asbestos can be classified in two ways: bonded or friable. Bonded (or non-friable) asbestos occurs when asbestos fibres are bonded to another material, often by mixing the asbestos with another material such as cement. They are unable to be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Bonded asbestos is able to become friable asbestos following fire, hail or illegal water blasting. Over 97% of asbestos containing material in Australia is bonded . In general, the presence of asbestos does not pose a health risk if it is bonded and in good condition. On the other hand, friable asbestos includes any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be easily crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. It is when these fibres are released that a health risk develops.

Health Dangers

Asbestos must be treated with extreme caution at all times as disturbing asbestos may cause fine asbestos fibres to become airborne. When airborne the fibres can be inhaled and cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. These diseases can eventuate even after an individual is no longer exposed and the delay between first exposure and detection of a disease can be between 25 to 40 years. Asbestos related diseases can be fatal. Consequently, it is always important to have professionals assess the situation before you proceed with any work surrounding asbestos or even suspected asbestos. When dealing with asbestos, you can never be too careful.

NSW

A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Head Office
Unit 6/7 Millennium Ct.,
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 8541 7214
info@adenvirotech.com.au

A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Laboratory
4/10-11 Millennium Ct
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 9648 6669

QLD

A. D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd (ADE)
PO Box 288
Upper Coomera LPO,
QLD, 4209 Australia
(07) 5519 4610
info@adenvirotech.com.au

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